There are many reasons women find it difficult to advocate for themselves during a pregnancy with severe nausea and vomiting or HG. The physical and emotional devastation of HG mean struggling to survive each day, so finding the words to convince others can be too much. Often, when they do find the words, they are not always heard or are met with disbelief and inadequate care.
The physical impact, lack of knowledge about HG, and conflicting emotions can contribute to women feeling as though they don’t have a voice. Many women do not even know HG is possible until they are pregnant and experiencing it because it’s not taught during prenatal classes. When things do not turn out as expected, the result can be confusion or shame. Shame convinces women they need to be silent or embarrassed because somehow what they are experiencing is their fault. Shame says they should be able to handle being pregnant like others. But HG is different.
This confusion is reinforced when women tell people how sick sick feel and get questions such as,
- I felt great when I was pregnant; why are you so sick?
- I had nausea, too, can’t you just eat something or lay down for a bit?
- Would you feel better if you stopped thinking about it?
- Wow, have you tried crackers or ginger?
At HER, this is called being crackered (or gingered). Ongoing crackering can lead us to think, “There must be something wrong with me because look at all these women who have had pregnancy experiences nothing like mine.”
Women don’t know about HG until they are pregnant and sick, so they are not prepared for living with this disease. Learning about HG, treatment options, and research empowers women to ask for needed medical care. With education and information, women are better prepared to advocate for themselves and their babies without shame.
Women ill with HG often don’t know much about HG and may have a fear or belief that they should be silent or compliant even if it means ignoring what they need and what they are experiencing. Self advocacy means raising our voices and believing we have a right to do so.
Once you know you have this right, everything else will fall into place. When your doctor dismisses your symptoms and concerns about HG, and you keep getting sicker, it’s a sign you may need to consider a different doctor. You know that your needs, and being able to speak them, are more important than the degrees that hang on the wall during your check-ups. You are your baby(s) deserve a doctor who listens and believes you.
And remember, if you are feeling like your mental health is suffering, you are not alone. Seek the support of a mental health professional who can help guide you through this experience. Many providers are now able to utilize tele-therapy. There are many resources for mental health during pregnancy such as Postpartum Support International.